By Imani Wills-Henderson / Reconnecting to Our Waterways
Nestled along the nearly 60 miles of Fall Creek, a dedicated group of neighbors in the Millersville community has been working to preserve the beauty of the beloved waterway. Each day they meet, they make sure to spend a portion of the time with gloves and trash bags, making their way through the dense trees to weed out debris (and weeds).
However, their commitment didn’t stop there. When the idea was broached to create a space where residents could connect with the creek and embrace its banks in a truly laid-back way, they dug in. It was a tall task though: clearing a portion of the northern bank enough for people to get right up near the water, complete with ample places to sit, kick back, and relax. Their vision took root, and they embarked on a mission to transform a portion of Fall Creek into a sweet neighborhood charm.
A little background about this community. Located on the east side of the city, nature is a primary asset, with the waterway and Fall Creek Trail running right through it. But what initially brought the neighbors together was the economic downturn that so many areas faced in the early 2000s.
In 2009, Millersville Village lost its anchoring grocer with other stores soon following suit. To collectively problem-solve, neighbors convened to create a non-profit, Millersville at Fall Creek Valley, which is all-volunteer-based and operates with a combination of donations, awards and grants.
A master plan was created with the city to define the area, guide goals and volunteers. In all, there are about 30 neighborhoods, 50 businesses and institutions that comprise MFCV. Since this time, they have worked alongside ROW, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, the Indianapolis Arts Council, Hoosier Youth Challenge Academy and many others to steward the greenways between 56th Street and Emerson Avenue. The group undertakies projects such as removing invasive species, planting flowers while bucket watering them, connecting sidewalks to the trail, creating signage, encouraging education – all while building community pride.
The ambitious plan for a creek overlook began back in 2020, when they started to dream of what they wanted to see along the Fall Creek Trail. In October and November 2021, the Department of Public Works and a Land Steward team joined the project, providing insight and officially approving the project.
Over the next month, they did site surveying and marking of dead, dying, and invasive trees. They went to a local stone center to pick out what would be used for seating. Then in the following spring came the heavy lifting: removing trees and vegetation, leveling the site using contracted machinery, planting grass seed and native species, and placing large stones to be utilized for seating.
Though a major goal of this area is to give nature enthusiasts and budding nature lovers a place to lounge by the creek, another is providing information about watershed management and sustainability. Along with the Marion County Soil and Land Conservation District, the site hosted a Stream Stewards Workshop. It was a great opportunity to learn about general waterway health and specifics like sediment and erosion control strategies, complete with a hands-on activity. Events such as this are ways for people, even outside of MFVC, to learn how to effectively protect waterways, engage with them safely, and invest time in a common goal.
In all, the dedicated efforts of the community continue to bear fruit. They succeeded in constructing a riverside retreat; large limestone benches offering unparalleled, unobstructed views of Fall Creek.
The site is conveniently located near an updated section of the Fall Creek Trail, which provides lots of parking for those wishing to check out local restaurants and then a stroll to the waterfront. The intentional transformation of Fall Creek Parkway shows the power of community by creating space for everyone to experience Fall Creek in all its splendor.
PHOTO ABOVE: After trees and brush finally cleared, three of the five stones for benches were delivered.